I'm sick. Can't think. Head loaded with phlegm. Kinda like every other day.
Excuse me. "Letter" tomorrow, probably, maybe.
I'm sick. Can't think. Head loaded with phlegm. Kinda like every other day.
Excuse me. "Letter" tomorrow, probably, maybe.
Last night's Angels-Oakland game was a blowout on a warm evening in Anaheim, and while I sat there watching the A's circle the bases on Chris Bootcheck like the Gas House Gorillas doing the conga line against the Tee-Totallers, I had the opportunity to think about going to ballgames and, more precisely, why I still go. I thought about the pros and cons, namely:
PROS: The atmosphere when the crowd becomes electric with excitement. The green of the grass, the sounds, the aura.
CONS: Traffic. Parking. Cost. Bad food. Frat boys and gangbangers all around. Mostly terrible sightlines. No replays. The wave.
And then I thought about watching the games on TV:
PROS: High definition. No traffic. No concession lines. Private bathrooms. Private kitchen. Better food. Comfortable. Freedom to see what else is on. Replays. DVR pausing.
CONS: None, really.
So why do I still go? I mean, other than going to get material, when it's purely for pleasure and I'm paying for the privilege, what's the benefit of driving 45 minutes to Anaheim or Chavez Ravine and plunking down 25 or 30 bucks and paying for parking and food and drink and sitting around dudes getting sloshed on 3.2 beer and showing off to each other? Especially when the seats are way down the line and you can't really see the batter all that well and the pitch location is a rumor?
Well, it isn't the free Chone Figgins signature cap, compliments of DQ.
I still like going to ballgames, though, for the atmosphere, the shared experience, the chance to say you were there when something amazing happened. But maybe it's a function of age or a sense that things are getting more expensive but not better, but I'm wondering whether it's really worth the trouble anymore. Maybe I need to hit some minor league games to restore the magic. Right now, I'm happy at home.
I got back late from the Angels game -- a blowout, it turned out, 14-2 -- so I have to delay more substantive commentary tomorrow. I will likely muse on the nature of attending sporting events and... well, I'll save it for tomorrow. Thanks for your understanding.
Whatever Fran has, I probably have now. Sore throat, coughing, general weakness. Just what I needed.
The Sixers came out for the second half like they were sick, too. I tuned in after that particular meltdown, but got to watch Detroit consistently getting one or two offensive boards each trip down. You can't win in the NBA if you let the opponent get several chances on each miss. That was ugly.
But, mostly, today was work and sickness. Maybe things will get normal tomorrow.
Today: Went to the desert. Saw rocks and dirt. Ate Mexican food.
I am happy.
That's all it took.
Today would have been my father's 77th birthday. He's been gone almost 4 years now, and I still think about what to get him for his birthday. I know I'd have been down in Florida with him today, or had him come out here. But that wasn't to be, and the world feels a little more empty without him and the day seems weirdly empty, too. I feel like I should be doing something to celebrate his birthday. Maybe I should have taken the day off, declared it a holiday like President's Day or Martin Luther King Day or something. Too late for that, but it's not too late to do this, again, like I do every year:
Happy birthday, Dad. I miss you.
This week's All Access newsletter lets me fantasize about what I'd do if I was in charge. It's probably a good thing I'm not in charge:
"So, genius, what would YOU do?"
I kept asking myself that question after last week's rip job on the NAB's "Radio Heard Here" marketing campaign. I'd gone on record as not thinking highly about the initial roll out of the campaign, the one with the orange logo and the retro people doing retro things with retro radios. And, thinking about the convention, it struck me how much of the show, ostensibly all about "content," was a celebration of technology, not content. It was about the machines that make the content and the machines that play the content. The P.R. campaign is all about the technology, too, even if it appears to be celebrating technology from several decades previous. It's trying to make radio as sexy as iPods and satellite, and, frankly, that ain't happening. You can't dress an old guy up in teenagers' clothes and put him in a hot sports car and get a teenager. All you get is a creepy old guy.
But building radio back up shouldn't be about making the medium itself sexy. Radio doesn't need to be sexy. It has other advantages, like, well, the fact that unlike most other technologies, it has a nearly 100% market penetration. There's a radio in every car, in practically every home, at almost every bedside. It's not about convincing people to buy a radio; they already have one, or several. It's more intuitive than anything Steve Jobs can design, primarily because it's been around so long, people are practically born knowing how to use it.
And that leads to the problem: It's everywhere, sure, and people know how to use it. The trick is getting people to USE radio. The competition has invaded the same space that radio had to itself for the last 70 or so years, namely, the car. When I get into my car today, I can turn on the radio. I can also turn on Sirius or XM or my iPod or my EVDO cell phone or the music player in my GPS. That may be extreme, but a lot of people have at least the iPod connected, and Internet streaming audio is around the corner. No amount of marketing will convince me to get rid of any of that.
So how do you market radio to maintain or increase its share of listening? ("So, genius, what would YOU do?") I'd say the one surefire way to get people to increase radio listening, or pay more attention to radio, or think more highly of radio, is to develop and market programming that you can't get anywhere else. Instead of trying to sell radio as the Next Big Thing that it can't become, sell the programming. If that's hard to do when the programming's "another 10 in a row commercial free," that's another argument in favor of talk and personality radio. If the industry wants to spend a lot of money developing a campaign to market radio, perhaps the money would be better spent on talent development and luring creative people to work in the business and....
Okay, let's also recognize that the campaign is also aimed at media buyers and agencies and decision makers. Certainly, the fact that the radio group heads are doing the dog-and-pony show tour for the advertising industry indicates that there's a need to sell those folks on the relevance of radio in an iPod universe. But you're marketing to the marketers. They know what you're up to. They do that for a living. They can come up with counterarguments to everything you throw at them -- your huge audience is also an inability to narrowly target buys to specific demos, your it's-everywhere is also my-kid-never-listens. But if you can say that you have popular content unavailable through other media, that's something. Radio needs stars and hit shows the same way that TV needs "American Idol" and the music industry (and your iPod) needs hit records and satellite needs Howard Stern. (Stern... hmm... seem to recall a fella by that name around these parts...) Radio still has a few national and local stars, but it needs to develop and hold onto more of them. That takes time, money, and coaching, and that's a good topic for another Letter down the road.
Spending the money to develop star content instead of doing generic industry marketing, that's my fantasy. But there's probably no danger that anyone will listen. Maybe you have a better idea, or you violently disagree, or you think all hope is lost and it's time to man the life rafts. Let me know what you think at psimon -- at -- allaccess --dot -- com and maybe I'll do a follow-up with your suggestions. Think of it like I'm taking your calls. Or maybe it's like the Fairness Doctrine. (shudder)
Here's another reminder that the Conclave Learning Conference in Minneapolis is coming up June 26-29 and I'll be attempting to moderate a panel on "Finding Your Voice," with KTLK-FM/Minneapolis host Chris Baker just added to the panel, which also includes WLNK (107.9 The Link)/Charlotte's Ramona Holloway and KSTP/St. Paul-Minneapolis PD Steve Konrad and his hosts Bob Davis and Tommy Mischke. If you want to come up and check it all out, there's an early bird registration rate of $299, so get in on it now -- go to theconclave.com for all the details.
And I'm still asking for donations for the Revlon Run/Walk for Women, this year scheduled for May 10 in Los Angeles. Fran (a cancer survivor and my hero) and I are walking again this year to raise money for cancer research. We welcome your support; please donate today by going to https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/la/secure/mywebpage.cfm?pID=421081. Thank you!
Plug!: All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics show prep column! This week: Digital TV trouble! March-December divorce! Pit bulls eat owner's face! Decomposing sister! Stolen White House BlackBerries! Windows XP won't die! Falling baby boomers! Global cooling! Toll road mania! Hitler's congressional endorsement! Raging Braves fans! 6-inch heels! Confederate flag purses! Samurai swords! Eyes poked out by flying carrots! $100 fill-ups! Zebra in college building! Star Jones' divorce! Cop does it with cows! Mystery lights! Frick and Frack! Cologne as a weapon! Kitchen gators! Rice rationing! Matzo shortages! Mascot lawsuits! Election! Election! Election! Election! Election! Plus 10 Questions with... Rubber City Radio/Akron VP, Information Media and newly elected RTNDA Chairman Ed Esposito! And the rest of All Access with News! Columns! Charts! Ratings! Jobs! The Industry Directory! Free! Help! Stop it! No more exclamation points!
Next week: My self-imposed silence about my favorite sports teams may come to an end if there's a repeat of Wednesday night's debacle in Detroit. Plus, some hastily-written radio stuff. Can't wait.
Watching tonight's Pistons massacre of the Sixers, I keep getting assaulted by commercials for "What Happens in Vegas," a movie I will never see because:
a) It is a "wacky" "romantic" "comedy."
b) It appears to be stunningly unfunny.
c) It stars Ashton Kutcher.
Besides the fact that you could easily write the script for this one in your head -- drunken night in Vegas, guy and girl who don't know each other end up in bed and then get married at the chapel, sober up and realize what happened, snipe comically at each other, grow to love each other -- it has Ashton Kutcher, who is easily the least appealing, worst actor of this generation. You thought his "portrayal" of the moron Kelso on "That 70s Show" was acting? Turns out that's pretty much his range.
But I'm not the target audience, or so I thought. I'm watching basketball. I'm a guy. I'm a basketball-watching guy. Who thought to buy ads for this movie on an NBA playoff game? If it doesn't feature things blowing up or people meeting sudden and untimely ends, it shouldn't be advertised on an NBA game.
On the other hand, why SHOULDN'T the commercials on this game be horrific? So are the Sixers. Oh, well. Maybe Igoudala will show up for game 3. (Or maybe, for his sake, Tayshaun Prince won't show up to shut him down like tonight)
As Inaction Week continues, it's an evening of trying to ignore the Pennsylvania primary and focus on what really counts, which is that the Suns lead San Antonio at the half. Suns can't seem to pull away, but they still have the lead. And they CAN win in that building. They just have to figure out how to keep Ginobili from killing them with layups, and they have to get a comfortable double-digit margin and hold it. Like Hillary.
But I said blogging will be light this week, so that's all for now. I'm a man of my word.
The Week of Light Posting continues with a day in which the only highlight was that I walked through the day thinking that it was the 28th. Apparently, it isn't. So some bills weren't due this week, I'm not at an Angel game tonight, and I have the lingering embarrassment that comes with being a total idiot.
And how was YOUR day?
The week of light posting continues with today's entry, including the hit singles "How 'Bout Them Sixers," "I Need To Buy A New Hose," and "Some Spambot's Using My E-Mail Address As A Fake Return Address (And My In-Box Is Jammed With The Bouncebacks) (Parts I and II)."
Utley just hit a homer and dinner's ready. I gotta go.
Today's weirdness: fire trucks and police cars at the overlook above the ocean in Palos Verdes Estates. We saw the trucks as we drove by on PV Drive, and wondered what had happened.
3 am. Guy was suicidal. Cops found him. He squirted hiself with something flammable, lit it, and drove off the cliff to the rocks 250 feet below.
Sound familiar? You'll find another cliff-driver -- at the very same spot -- here. Seems like a popular place to end it all in a particularly terrible way.
No, they still haven't installed a fence there. You'd think that would be job one.
Blogging will be regular but light for the next week or so for various reasons. I'm just warning you. At least I have reasons.
To take up space, here's a series of three reel of random clips, test patterns, promos, and stuff from Pittsburgh, Toronto, Toledo, Cleveland and Detroit TV in 1981, featuring cameos from Ted Knight, Gene Shalit, and many more:
UPDATE 4/24: Yes, all three have been taken down from YouTube, which sucks. It might be that they had too much material from single newscasts, but there are similar clips still up. Oh, well, they were great for old-TV geeks like me, and I'm glad I got to see them before they were hit with the takedown.
This week's All Access newsletter is, as promised, my award-winning coverage of the big broadcastig convention. Feel the warmth:
The NAB Show this year was about content. Content, content, content, content, content, content, content, content, content, content. The NAB latched onto the buzzword "content" this year, a mere, what, ten, fifteen years after people were going around saying "Content is King"? Anyway, the slogan for this year's NAB Show was "Where Content Comes To Life," or "we're All About Content," or "We're Content To Act Like There's Nothing Wrong With Our Business That a PR Campaign Can't Fix." I'm not sure, but, then, it's been a hectic week. They had a special area set aside for content, too, but not radio content, just video. Radio content creates itself. Didn't you know that?
I didn't see any equipment on the floor that spontaneously generates radio content without human input, though, just automation systems and antenna mounts and, of course, HD Radio, which... well, I'll write about that again at some point soon. What was most interesting to me, though, is that you couldn't buy an HD Radio at the NAB Show, at least not that I saw (I'm open to correction, but I didn't see any for sale). In fact, other than a cheap microphone-shaped radio, there wasn't a radio available at the NAB Stores. Here's what you COULD buy at the NAB Stores: Simpsons bendable dolls, snow globes with a snowman on a recliner in them, Ren and Stimpy t-shirts, "Geekman" action figures, and Twister keychains. I'm serious. There were huge "Inventory Reduction" signs up everywhere and the stores were stocked with schlock, much of which had nothing to do with radio, or television, or the NAB. It looked like the companies who do those "Everything Must Go!" closeout sales at furniture stores -- the ones where they truck in their own lousy surplus stuff -- took over the shop and trucked in the inventory of a 1991 Hollywood Boulevard gift shop. I guess the Eddie Fritts bobbleheads have finally been cleared out for good.
But the convention wasn't about souvenirs, it was about content. And that was evident in the rousing keynote address by NAB President and CEO David K. Rehr, who noted that a study showed that everyone loves radio, just loves it, but what they really love is the human voice, the personal bond with the exciting personalities on the radio. Yes, it's all about the personalities. He might try telling that to the personalities who are presently unemployed after all the cutbacks of the last few years. Yes, folks, the public loves you; now, go away.
Rehr also unveiled the big "Radio Heard Here" marketing campaign, which is the start of the industry's attempt to remind people that they really love radio even if they've forgotten or switched to iPods or satellite. "Radio Heard Here" involves, as far as I could tell, a large orange logo. At the Radio Luncheon, he said that focus groups didn't just like the logo, they LOVED it. They ADORED it. They wanted to take the logo home and do intimate things with it. Okay, I don't recall if the last part was in his speech or whether I just dreamed it, but he was excited about "Radio Heard Here." And I was, too, especially after I saw the print ads and banners around the convention showing young people laying on the grass wearing huge metal headphones, the kind people wore in 1958, and another ad with a young person doing a "groovy" dance on the sidewalk in front of a "hep," "gear" boom box (with a double cassette deck!). It seems that I misunderstood the campaign. The "here" in "Radio Heard Here" means "The Seventies." Now, everything makes sense. (I get it, it's "retro," showing how people used to listen to radio everywhere. I am certain this will resonate with young folks who will look at the huge portable radios in the ads and think "why are they listening to an air conditioner?")
Other than that, most of the radio-related discussion at the convention revolved around the same old themes: you can make money on the Net with streaming and your station website (maybe, some, kinda) and we'll show you how (sorta), we need to get radio onto every mobile device (but have no evidence that the public wants that, will use it, or would choose our content over someone else's), it's an exciting time to be in radio (for the adrenaline rush of waiting to see whether you'll be part of the next staff reductions). I don't know what to make, however, of the fact that the biggest ovation I heard at the convention (okay, second biggest, after the response to Kool and the Gang at the CNN party) was for a speech that absolutely tore the radio industry, and particularly the news and talk radio industry, apart. That was the speech Tim Robbins gave, and the audience at the keynote cheered and hollered and adored him. He did a mock history of radio that took shots at, of course, President Bush, but also the radio industry for "national playlists" and failing to report the "other side" of the news and covering sex scandals and celebrities. He also essentially called for the return of the Fairness Doctrine. And the audience cheered, because, well, he said it all with a lot of humor and bravado.
And that reinforced something I've said before: It's not the politics, it's the entertainment. A lot of people in that room certainly disagree with his conclusions, but he delivered them in an entertaining, funny, engaging way. If he'd come in there and lectured the room, he'd have lost the audience. Instead, he had them listening and laughing, and he got his points across. He may have lost a debate on these issues, but it wasn't a debate. Neither is talk radio.
I know that there was more going on at the convention, but there's only so much one guy can absorb. Besides, most of it appeared to involve online video, and that's good for the NAB, because that's a growth industry, and it provided a lot of the energy and positivity in the halls. Look, there's a future! It's in the South Hall with all the video stuff! I hear that they have content over there, too!
Before we move on to the Talk Topics plug, let's include a plug for a different trade gathering, the Conclave Learning Conference in Minneapolis June 26-29. This will be my first year attending the Conclave, which I've long been told is essential for talent -- great networking and panels that actually help you do your job better. For some reason, they've put me in charge of a panel this year, and it looks like it's going to be about "Finding Your Voice" and will feature WLNK (107.9 The Link)/Charlotte's Ramona Holloway of "Matt and Ramona" and KSTP/Good Ol' St. Paul-Big Time Minneapolis PD Steve Konrad, plus Steve will apparently be bringing along a couple of his hosts, Bob Davis and, yes, Tommy Mischke. We'll be talking about how to find what makes your on-air personality unique and how to use it, although I suspect that there's a good possibility we'll end up talking about whatever Mischke decides we'll be talking about. At least, that's the plan for now. If you want to come up and check it all out, there's an early bird registration rate of $299, so get in on it now -- go to theconclave.com for all the details.
I'm also going to slip in the weekly plug for the Revlon Run/Walk for Women, this year scheduled for May 10 in Los Angeles. Fran and I are walking again this year to raise money for cancer research, and, as I've explained before, it's something near and dear to our hearts. I'm doing it to honor Fran's courage and survival. She's doing it to help others who find themselves in her position. We welcome your support, no matter who and what you choose to honor -- it's a great cause and when we do the walk, we carry your thoughts and well-wishes with us all the way to the finish line. Please donate today: go to https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/la/secure/mywebpage.cfm?pID=421081. Thank you!
Still with me? Okay, then, here's what you'll find for your show prep needs at All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topcis column this week: David Caruso's stalker, Marilyn Monroe's stag reel, your boss on Facebook, Miguel Tejada's age discrepancy, a 50 year old broken leg, 911 prank calls, arena softball, bad tap water, more than one story about radio on buses, controversial art projects, cuddle parties, cereals and candidates, the baked bean diet, creative proposals, marauding peacocks, bad vitamins, high food prices, high gas prices, high everything prices, and lots more, plus "10 Questions With..." WINK/Fort Myers morning host Mandy Connell and the rest of All Access with news, columns, ratings, jobs, music charts, etc., etc., free.
Next: Maybe I'll be able to get "Too Hot," "Hollywood Swinging," and the rest of the Kool and the Gang songbook out of my head. It's been stuck in there since Tuesday night (thanks, Jerry).
So there we were in a crowded Las Vegas nightclub while Kool and the Gang ripped through their greatest hits a few feet away while a roomful of CNN staffers and affiliates boogied to the beat. The band was exactly what you'd expect, a good-time-oldies juggernaut. They did "Joanna." They did "Too Hot" and "Ladies' Night." They did "Let's Go Dancin'" and "Cherish" and "Fresh." They reached all the way back for "Hollywood Swinging' and "Jungle Boogie." They did "Get Down On It." They finished, the drummer did an interminable solo, and then they returned and...
Yes. They did it. They did their annuity song. They did their ultimate in wedding/bar mitzvah cheese. They did the song even grandma will dance to. They did the Friday-night-at-the-Holiday-Inn-lounge classic.
They did "Celebration."
Celllllebrate good times, COME ON!
(pumps fist in air)
Standing there listening to the band play that song for the millionth time and the crowd joyously reveling, a few things came to mind:
1. The guys in that band have got to really, truly hate playing that song every single night for almost 30 years.
2. You can't hear it without flashing back to every single wedding and bar mitzvah you've ever attended, and the sight of Aunt Bubbe getting as down-n-dirty on the dance floor as she possibly could.
3. It's... okay. Really. I instinctively cringe when I hear songs like "Celebration" because of the association with extreme embarrassment like the sight of uncool people getting their freak on to the music, but I realized that it's not really the song's fault. It's just, well, a song. It's benign. It's not there to cause embarrassment, no more than "Electric Boogie" was responsible for big-haired secretaries from Northeast Philadelphia doing the Electric Slide at the Sheraton Bucks County bar or "Achy Breaky Heart" or "Boot Scootin' Boogie" were respons... er...
Well, okay, there IS some trouble with my thesis. But I had a good time at the CNN party listening to Kool and the Gang. Sue me.
(And thanks to the incredible Jerry DeMink at CNN for his usual hospitality, of course)
There's a lot to tell you about the NAB Show, but I need to save most of it for "The Letter" later in the week. I can tell you that if you didn't come, you didn't miss a lot. This show wasn't for radio people, not really. It was more for engineers and techies and TV production types, as it always has been, with a dollop of online video stuff and the RTNDA going on at the Hilton next door. For those folks, I imagine it was worthwhile. For a radio guy, not an engineer or equipment fetishist, it was... uneventful. Except for the new PR campaign, but I will have plenty to say about it on Thursday.
So the world will have to wait a few more days for my wisdom. After one social/business event tonight, we'll hit the road tomorrow and be back in L.A. Can't wait.
A few non-radio things:
First, any town considering building a rail project should come to Vegas, look at the monorail, take notes, and do something entirely different. The monorail doesn't quite go where you want it to go -- it's a long walk THROUGH casinos to the stations from the Strip -- and fares are ridiculous. It doesn't go to the airport, it doesn't go downtown or Henderson or Summerlin, the walk from many of the major resorts is long enough that you could just as easily walk directly to your destination... genius. Just genius.
Second, one thing this city does not have is a decent running route at or near the strip. I've been using the spa at the Venetian, which is a great spa, but I like the changing scenery of running and there just isn't a safe, good run around here. The neighborhood just east of the Strip deteriorates rapidly, getting to the UNLV track requires crossing many streets with interminable traffic lights and lots of traffic, and running up and down the Strip -- you can really only do it early in the morning -- means dodging the homeless and hung over. I know this only affects running geeks like me, but this really is the worst city in which to run. Even Manhattan is easier for running.
Third, I've been using a Garmin Nuvi 660 GPS and I like it a lot, The bluetooth works great, the screen is sharp and bright, and it's small enough, despite the widescreen, to stick in your pocket if need be, But it has some quirky ideas for routing, even when set on "fastest." On the way here, it kept trying to take me off the 91 freeway to go north on the 710, then the 605, then the 57, then the 55, in each case insisting on a u-turn to go back to that route, which would have dumped me on the busy 60 or 10 freeways. On a Sunday morning, the 91 to the 15 is the only sane way to go from our area. The Nuvi wouldn't take no for an answer until it finally gave up somewhere in Riverside. But other than that, I like having a GPS, even if I rarely need it for the directions. I need the handsfree anyway for the California law change coming up, and if you're someplace and you want to know where, say, the nearest In-N-Out Burger is, it's a pleasure to be able to punch it up in seconds. Not a life-changing device, but convenient, yes.
We'll talk tomorrow.
No time tonight. Busy and late.
One observation: Bouchon Bakery in the Venetian is unbelievable. Seriously. Go to the back of the casino, follow the signs for the Phantom theater, and when you reach the theater entrance, turn around and look at the counter behind you. The cheese danish is unlike any you've tasted. The chocolate eclair with chocolate inside of it is astounding. Really. Amazing.
More genius tomorrow.
I am SO not ready for the NAB Show. I'm in Vegas and I'm STILL not ready. I've said it before (over and over and over): this is by far my least favorite of the conventions. But I'm here, so I might as well make the best of it, which includes trying to just enjoy the surroundings.
That's not easy, because of the morbid obesity. Let me just preface this by saying that I'm fully aware that we are what one might call comfortably proportioned. I do not hold myself up as a paragon of fitness. But we look positively anorexic compared to what I'm seeing around here. Just sitting in the shopping area watching people galumph by, my jaw was on the ground. You want to know why people from other countries think Americans are all blobby and sickly? They come to Vegas and just watch,
Mind you, it's easy to get tha bgig if you hang around here enough, As long as your credit cards hold out, there's an incredible array of great, fattening food on which to gorge. Pizza, gelato, fried anything, cheesy whatever, sugar of every variety, all formed into various unhealthy but delicious treats and all tempting you from every angle. And the sit-down restaurants... we had dinner at Valentino, and we've never been to the original in Santa Monica but this one was excellent. But I can't move right now from all the pasta still sitting in my stomach.
Tomorrow comes the exhausting part. It starts with a keynote -- Tim Robbins? Why? -- and continues with various forums and eventually atomizes into countless industry parties to which I will likely not go. Tuesday's pretty much the same, and Wednesday, I escape. If anything interesting happens, I'll let you know.
So, what did YOU do today? Uh huh... hmm... really. Interesting. Moi? Oh, I just ran some errands, had lunch, appeared in a movie. Nothing major.
Oh, all right, it was a documentary on talk radio. I'm hardly taking a starring role in a major Hollywood movie. But the documentary should be interesting, and some of the more well-known names in talk radio will be in it along with the obscurity that is me. I got interviewed over by the cliffs with the Point Vicente lighthouse behind me and curious tourists, whale watchers, and a wedding party just off screen to my right. I have no idea whether I said anything interesting or even coherent. They can fix that in post, can't they?
Whenever this thing comes out, keep an eye peeled for the guy squinting off into the distance with a cowlick popping up on top of his head in the seabreeze while rambling on and on inanely about nothing in particular. I inhabited that role as if I lived it, if I do say so myself.
This week's All Access newsletter was like pulling teeth. But I finally came up with some commentary in light of the Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz, and Bill Cunningham brouhahas:
Three times in recent weeks, a talk radio host went in front of an audience and did his or her typical schtick. Each time, the audience in the theater laughed and applauded. Each time, the host got in trouble.
A controversial talk radio host's comments will play very differently with non-listeners from how it plays with fans. The same comment that will draw a laugh or a shrug from a regular listener might draw revulsion when plucked out of the context of the show and played for someone who doesn't normally listen. That's always been the case, going back to Howard Stern and Bob Grant and even Joe Pyne and Alan Burke. It shouldn't matter what someone who doesn't listen anyway thinks, but this is an era when the Internet makes taking your comments and turning them into an international incident easy. Just record, clip, post... instant controversy. (Ask Imus.)
Talk radio, as an industry, can't do much about this. Our business is constructed in large part on controversy; we're in a time when there's competition from more extreme, unregulated conversation on blogs and websites, and the fans expect a certain amount of edge to what we do. But there's more at risk for radio, in advertising revenue and even from the FCC. So, what do we do?
Management and talent have to get on the same page on a few things. First, they should agree that there's one overriding, critical rule to which the talent must adhere: you can't do anything that jeopardizes the license. Period. A minor indecency fine isn't jeopardizing the license. Repeated and egregious incidents are another story. This shouldn't be hard to follow. You don't put someone on the air without telling them they're on the air first, you don't rattle off strings of obscenities (at least before 10 pm, that is), you don't issue a death threat or read coded illegal lottery numbers. Indecency may be a gray area, especially since the FCC continues to move the goal posts for it, but some stuff is just common sense.
Second, management has to grow a spine. If they're hiring you to be controversial, they'd better let you be controversial. That means supporting you when a caller complains or an advertiser threatens to pull a schedule. That means telling an angry pressure group that they're welcome to voice their opinion the same way everyone else can, by calling in during the show. That means realizing that most of these incidents tend to blow over in a matter of weeks. That means not panicking. If management is not willing to do any of that -- if the desire is to receive no complaint calls -- then perhaps they should put some other format on the air, like a nice "Fresh" or "Sound." You won't get complaint calls if you're playing Today's Hits and Yesterday's Favorites.
Finally, everyone needs to remember one single overriding thing, one I've mentioned before and which got me through a lot of crises over the years: it's only radio. So a host called a powerful politician a poopyhead. So a host made disparaging comments about a beloved public figure. So a host told his listeners to march on the State House and throw lima beans at the front door. So a host said something that folks in polite society wouldn't dream of saying, even if they're thinking it. It's only radio. It's a show. It's entertainment -- sometimes informative entertainment, sometimes enriching entertainment, and sometimes just good old-fashioned yelling-and-screaming, name-calling, loud, rude entertainment. If you don't like it -- and, believe me, sometimes I don't like it -- here's the dial.
There's no comfortable way to segue from that to my weekly plea for donations for the Revlon Run/Walk for Women, so I'll just go right into it: the walk is coming up on May 10 in Los Angeles, and I've alredy told you about my wife Fran's corage and how we're walking to raise money to help fight breast cancer and how it's a great cause and every dollar counts, so please make a donation at https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/la/secure/mywebpage.cfm?pID=421081. (There are also links to the donation page at Talk Topics and on pmsimon.com as well) Thank you!
And there's no comfortable way to segue from THAT into the weekly plug for Talk Topics, the show prep extravaganza at All Access News-Talk-Sports, so just go there to find material for your show, including cancelled flights, bankrupt airlines, gang families, car blind spots, dangerous flyovers, birthday tasings, parental texting, McDonald's bingo, the Chicken Dance (clap clap clap clap), the birthdays of Big Ben and the Crayola 64-count box, freegans, housing incentives, high school Fight Clubs, dangerous water bottles, a guy mowing his lawn in a mini-skirt, cell phone art, anti-police breath mints, what's new with Dungeons and Dragons, and a frog without lungs, plus much more. You'll also find "10 Questions With..." KLSX/Los Angeles VP and PD Jack Silver and the rest of All Access with the industry's first/fastest/best news coverage, charts, ratings, jobs, the Industry Directory, and everything else that's made All Access by far the largest and best trade site in the business. Go check it out. It's free, if that helps.
Next week: the NAB Show in Las Vegas. That letter ought to write itself.
I know, I know.
But the Letter's taking longer than expected, it's bedtime, and I'm still not done. Tomorrow's a packed day, too, so I really need to sleep, get up early, write, get The Letter done, and do several other chores before the NAB nightmare commences, so...
This was another hits-just-keep-on-coming day from the very beginning, when I discovered that an important package I'd sent by Express Mail through the U.S. Postal Service had gone AWOL -- the scans showed it showing up at the L.A. Express Mail facility on Sunday night and then... disappearing. And several calls to several different USPS offices elicited not much more than a shrug and an "I don't know." Where is the package? "I don't know." Where could it be? "I don't know." Can we look for it? "I don't know." Who's actively looking for it? "I don't know." Who's responsible? "I don't know." What should I do now? "I don't know."
Should you use Express Mail? I don't know, but right now, signs point to "No."
And then I got the word from my mechanic: the exhaust problem that's spewing carbon monoxide into the cabin of my Volvo will cost over six hundred bucks to fix. That's on top of the six hundred-plus I spent a few weeks ago to replace the engine mounts and fix the steering problem, and the additional six hundred to fix Fran's Mustang. Sure, what the hell, I'm made of money. Pile it on.
But all of that faded into irrelevancy when the word came through that Fran's Aunt Elly passed away today. Elly was ill for a long time, yet it was still a shock to hear that she was gone. She was a one-of-a-kind special lady, smart, sharp, opinionated, a true survivor... someone I am grateful to have had the chance to meet and get to know, someone we loved to visit and just sit around with her and Betty and talk.
You would have loved her. We do.
I would be happy to write something tonight had I not just wasted hours trying to get Fran's computer to work properly.
It does now.
But it took my evening with it.
I am not happy at the moment. But I am tired. Let's save everything else until tomorrow.
Or maybe Rose DID eat too much candy. All he had to do is hit more than one three free throws down the stretch and Memphis takes it in regulation. But he didn't, and that left Chalmers the opportunity to hit a prayer three in regulation and the Jayhawks to take over in overtime. Down by nine with less than three minutes left and they won. One shining moment, indeed.
But I still don't care. Much.
I'm watching the Kansas-Memphis game. It's close, with just under ten minutes to go. I am totally unenthused.
Here's what it would take for me to care about this game:
1. A rooting interest. Villanova was my only rooting interest. It doesn't really matter to me that it was Kansas that beat the 'Cats.
2. A villain. Are Self or Calipari worth the energy? Is there any reason to hate either school? Nah.
3. Derrick Rose puking all over the court. The bad-stomach-from-too-much-candy story was entertaining, but without a payoff, it's nothing. I'd rather see this than what he's doing now, getting hot and running off a string of points.
4. Billy Packer being dragged from courtside. My Lord, the man is annoying. He's been insufferable since... since Wake Forest? No, more like since the last time he shared color commentary duties with Al McGuire.
5. Duke getting humiliated. But they've been gone for a while and we already addressed the lack of a villain.
6. Aside: Shouldn't Chris Douglas-Roberts just drop the Chris and be Douglas Roberts? Two names is enough (sez Perry Michael Simon, but I have two first names and one surname. So there). Or just keep the hyphenated part: Douglas-Roberts. Like Terry-Thomas.
7. Another aside: If Derrick Rose eats too much candy, then so should everyone else. Dude's making crazy shots now.
So I'm watching, enjoying the play, but I'd like it better if I cared who won. Good game, but it would be better if I cared who won, or cared who lost..
I'd love to have weekends where I could just do what everyone else does -- relax for a few minutes and then get anxious as Monday morning approaches. I just work and do stuff and have no time for anything else.
Today included a full day of work, plus construction of an entire patio set, a sewer-clog emergency (again), a run to buy a replacement monitor for Fran's computer, installation of same and removal of the old, and discovery that she'll need a new video card, too. That followed a day of work and taxes, too. Not that it's that big a deal, but, still, geez, I could use a break.
And in Saturday's New York Times, a warning: Matt (Theron Heir) Richtel writes of death by blogging, the 24/7 news cycle and stress from having to constantly break stories and write all the time leading to heart attacks and, yes, death. Two prominent bloggers died, and Om Malik had his attack, and it may, or may not, be attributable to the job. I think it's possible. I try to get enough sleep and I exercise a lot, but the job does take something out of you. If you're the kind of guy who sits all the time, downs Mountain Dew and Carl's Jr. Six Dollar Burgers and doesn't move from the computer, that's a recipe for an early grave.
But the thought that maybe all this work around the clock isn't healthy has crossed my mind. It's been a while since I took off from everything -- no All Access, no this, no e-mail, no nothing. It might be time for that soon. I could use a week with nothing but good books and cold beer.
I'm too scattered to write much right now. My mind's a jumble of things: the NCAAs, patio furniture, 1040s, Ella's new collar, the "CSI" episodes we're plowing through on the DVR, the unspeakably bad acting on said shows, laundry, Joyva Ring Jells, baseball, Las Vegas... and not writing.
Ahhhhh. This is more like it. I'm on the living room sofa after a long and mentally taxing day and a tour of several stores to look at patio furniture. I just watched the end of the Phillies' victory over Cincinnati, got the Dodgers-Padres on in HD, the Sixers and Flyers won - playoffs! - and I'm pleased, of course. The week's over, some arduous projects are just about finished, the stress is starting to ease... It's Miller time, or more precisely, Better Beer Than Miller time.
I'm going to commence having a weekend. I suggest y'all do the same.
This week's All Access newsletter is about an industry with some self-esteem issues:
Here we go again: The big radio group heads are apparently going to go to ad agency types and do a public relations/sales job on them to convince them that radio is the place to be. Yup, that's all we need, just an aggressive P.R. blitz. All is well. Why, radio's reach is only down 3% in the last ten years! And with Radio 2020 or Space 1999 or whatever it's called, we're gonna get radio into every appliance! iPods! Cell phones! Weed whackers! Even toasters! And vibrators! Top that, Steve Jobs! Didn't we hear this last Fall?
Look, we all love radio, but "only a 3% decline" isn't the best sales feature, even if, because the population grew, more people are listening. You have Wall Street looking for growth, advertisers looking for growth, and you're touting "only" a 3% drop-off... yeah, well, that isn't your best pitch. I don't know what Radio 2020 or Match Game '75 or whatever it's called has in mind, but I'd hope that instead of selling these weak generalities, they'd be selling radio's unique features, like, oh, say, like personality. Did they notice what that Coleman Insights study said about Rush Limbaugh's show from the PPM data, that listeners really DO listen to the commercials, that they're really loyal to the host and the show? That's how talk radio works, when you do it right: You get a large and intensely loyal audience that actually listens to commercials. They don't skip over them like on a TiVo for TV, they don't avoid them like on an iPod... they stick with the show through the commercials. THAT'S good news. And good talent can't be duplicated, so every successful talker on radio is something special, something that advertisers should want to invest in. Is that in Radio 2020 or Rocket 88 or whatever it's called? I sure hope so.
I'd settle for the group heads acknowledging that the talent exists. Most of the time, they talk about radio as if it's independent of the people who make the programming. You never hear them talk about people as an important asset. But without people, radio is, basically, an iPod, except that the user can't control it. Radio IS people. (So is Soylent Green, but we won't go there)
Speaking of public relations and self-image problems, can I just make an observation here? Can radio stations just say no to interviews when the subject puts conditions or restrictions on what questions can be asked? I've just noticed that, for example, one candidate's been appearing on sports stations with the restriction that he's only going to talk about sports. I understand why a station might agree to that -- it may be the only way to get an Obama or McCain or Clinton on the morning show. But if the campaign people think your station or show is where the candidate needs to be to reach the voters, then you have the power to say no to any restrictions. It's your show and your station. Don't let someone else -- ANYONE else -- dictate how an interview should be conducted. And if you're worried that your competitor will take advantage, you can tell the public what the campaign tried to pull on you and why you said no. You'd be the hero, the station that stood up for the people's right to know (cue patriotic music). Don't let yourself be pushed around, 's all I'm sayin'.
Okay, before we get to the Talk Topics plug, here's a reminder that the Revlon Run/Walk for Women is coming up on May 10 in Los Angeles and my wife Fran (a breast cancer survivor and my hero) and I are walking once again to raise money for breast cancer and other cancer research. (I'd run it, but I want to walk by her side the whole way and cross the finish line with her) (Awwwwww) We were gratified by last year's response and appreciate the response so far this year. I know this is financially a tough time for radio folks, but it's a great cause and every dollar counts, so please make a donation at https://www.revlonrunwalk.com/la/secure/mywebpage.cfm?pID=421081. (There are also links to the donation page at Talk Topics and on pmsimon.com as well) Thank you!
Oh, right, Talk Topics. That's the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports and you know about it by now, so here are some of the items you'll find there this week: dying airlines, gas price records, campaign cheesesteaks, Fenway Park hawks, fake kidnappings, gun-toting kids, unprotected candidates, stupid teens, violent fans, pay-per-view funerals, high school cricketers, employee "discounts," kiddie-show hosts, congressional pigs, sneaker-wearing leaders, lice-laden kids, grease thieves, opposite-sex roommates, speeding motorcyclists, bad allergies, hunger strikes, and bathroom cell phones, to name just a few. Wow. And check out "10 Questions With..." WGAN-WZAN/Portland, ME PD/ND Jeff Wade and the rest of All Access with complete, fast, accurate industry news coverage, message boards, columns, ratings, charts, the Industry Directory, and much more. 'Tis free, too.
Hey, the NAB Show is just a week and change away -- maybe they'll tell us more about Radio 2020 or the 1810 Overture or whatever it is. And maybe then I'll stop making fun of it. Talk to you next week.
We were out this evening picking up some supplies at Target when I started to feel decadent. Geez, I thought, it's 7 pm and I'm out and doing stuff. It's late. It's almost bedtime.
I've been keeping weird hours for about a decade now, and it's getting to me. Up way, way before dawn -- before 4 -- every day, trying to get to sleep early... it's basically the hours you keep if you do a morning show, except without the morning show money. Plus, if you do a morning show, you're done by 10, and even with an hour or so of post-show prep, you can at least take a nap in the afternoon to maintain some semblance of a normal schedule. I don't get nap time. I have to stay up all day, work late, and try not to think about how worn down I feel.
Of course, it isn't manual labor. But writing all day is mentally exhausting, and I sometimes wonder if I'm able to maintain some semblance of adequate quality through it all. What I do know is that it's a quarter to nine and I'm still at the computer, tapping away, listening to the sound of the rain hitting the window and Vin Scully narrating the Dodger game, my nerve endings slowly fraying. So much to do, so little time, so little sleep.
Ladies and gentlemen, pmsimon.com gives you the World Premiere of the major motion picture "Why I Won't Go Whale Watching Ever Again," in Tiny-Quick-Time-Screen-O-Vision and WindScreenDeficient Stereo Sound!:
I smell Oscar. Or the ship's bathrooms. Same thing.